Criminal Record Entry Requirements for New Zealand 

Updated on Sep 03, 2023 | New Zealand eTA

Travelers with a criminal record may have questions regarding their eligibility to enter New Zealand. It is crucial to familiarize oneself with the country's criminal record entry requirements for New Zealand maintains strict character standards for visitors. 

While a prior criminal conviction does not automatically disqualify individuals from entering the country, it is essential to understand the assessment process and the factors considered when evaluating eligibility by gaining knowledge about the criminal record entry requirements. 

New Zealand Visa Application Form now allows visitors from all nationalities to obtain New Zealand eTA (NZETA) by email without visiting New Zealand Embassy. Government of New Zealand now officially recommends New Zealand Visa or New Zealand ETA online rather than sending paper documents. You can obtain NZETA by filling out a form in under three minutes on this website. The only requirement is to have a Debit or Credit Card and email id. You do not need to send your passport for Visa stamping. If you are arriving to New Zealand by the Cruise Ship route, you should check the New Zealand ETA eligibility conditions for Cruise Ship arrival to New Zealand.

Navigating Criminal record Entry Requirements for New Zealand: Eligibility

When planning a visit to New Zealand, it's crucial to understand the country's entry requirements, especially regarding individuals with a criminal record. New Zealand places great importance on the assessment of "good character" as part of the eligibility criteria for entry.

  • Defining Good Character: Being of good character means that a traveler's background and conduct do not raise concerns about their behavior, trustworthiness, or adherence to the law. Maintaining a positive reputation and demonstrating compliance with legal and ethical standards are essential.
  • Serious Character Issues: Individuals with significant character issues, such as convictions for serious crimes, involvement in organized criminal activities, or a history of violence or sexual misconduct, may face challenges in meeting the good character requirement. These cases undergo thorough evaluation, and entry to New Zealand may be denied.
  • Minor Character Issues: People with minor character issues, such as past convictions for minor offenses or isolated incidents, may still be considered for entry. Factors such as the circumstances of the offense, rehabilitation efforts, and time elapsed since the incidents are taken into account during the assessment.
  • Case-by-Case Assessment: New Zealand immigration authorities evaluate each individual's character on a case-by-case basis, exercising discretion in their decision-making process. The seriousness and nature of the character issues, evidence of rehabilitation and behavior change, and the potential impact on New Zealand's welfare are among the factors considered.

Understanding these criminal record entry requirements for New Zealand will help travelers assess their eligibility and prepare for a smooth entry process. It's advisable to seek professional advice or consult with the appropriate authorities if there are concerns about your criminal record and its potential impact on your entry to New Zealand.

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We previously covered Travel Guide to Nelson, New Zealand.

Navigating Criminal record Entry Requirements for New Zealand:Individuals with Serious Character Issues

When considering entry to New Zealand, it is essential to be aware of the restrictions imposed on individuals with serious character issues. Both the eTA entry permit and the visitor or residence visa for New Zealand will not be granted to those who fall into the following categories due to their criminal record:

  • Prison Term of 5 or More Years: Individuals who have served a prison term of 5 or more years for committing a criminal offense will not be eligible for a visa or entry permit.
  • Recent Conviction and Prison Sentence: Individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense and sentenced to prison for one year or more within the last 10 months will not meet the good character requirements and will be ineligible for a New Zealand travel document.
  • Deportation or Removal: Individuals who have been deported or removed from any country will not be granted entry to New Zealand.
  • Banned from Entering New Zealand: Individuals who have been banned from entering New Zealand will not meet the good character requirements and will not be granted the necessary travel document.

In addition, entry to New Zealand will be prohibited if immigration officials have reasonable grounds to believe that an individual is likely to commit an offense in the country that is punishable by imprisonment.

For individuals with serious character issues, the only potential avenue to gain access to New Zealand is through a special direction. A special direction is granted when the Immigration Minister of New Zealand waives a specific requirement. However, it is crucial to note that special directions are only granted in exceptional circumstances.

Understanding the criminal record entry requirements for New Zealand is crucial for individuals with serious character issues. It is advisable to seek professional advice or consult with the appropriate authorities to assess your eligibility and explore any available options for entry.

Navigating Criminal record Entry Requirements for New Zealand:Certain Character Issues in New Zealand

When it comes to obtaining a New Zealand eTA or visa, individuals with specific character issues may still have a chance if certain good character requirements are waived by immigration officials. The following categories outline situations where consideration for a visa or eTA may be possible:

  • Convictions related to immigration, citizenship, or passport laws: Individuals with convictions pertaining to immigration, citizenship, or passport laws may be granted a visa or eTA if immigration officials waive the standard good character requirements.
  • Past imprisonment for a criminal offense: Individuals who have previously served a prison sentence for a criminal offense may still be considered for a New Zealand eTA or visa if immigration officials grant a character waiver.
  • Under investigation or wanted for questioning: Individuals currently under investigation or wanted for questioning regarding an offence may be eligible for a visa or eTA if immigration officials waive the good character requirements.
  • Charged with an offense carrying a 12-month or longer jail term: Individuals facing charges for an offense that, if convicted, carries a jail term of 12 months or more may still be considered for a New Zealand eTA or visa if immigration officials waive the good character requirements.

If any of these situations apply, it is vital to provide a comprehensive explanation supported by relevant evidence when applying for a visa or eTA. The explanation should address the specific circumstances surrounding the character issue, emphasizing any mitigating factors or positive changes since the occurrence.

By presenting a thorough account and supporting evidence, individuals can improve their chances of being considered for a New Zealand eTA or visa, even if they have certain character issues. It is advisable to seek professional advice or consult with immigration authorities to understand the specific requirements and processes involved in obtaining a character waiver.

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From the 1st October 2019, visitors from Visa Free countries also known as Visa Waiver countries must apply on https://www.newzealand-visa.org for an online electronic Travel authorisation in the form of New Zealand Visitor Visa. Learn about New Zealand Tourist Visa information for all Visitors seeking short term travel to New Zealand.

Exemption from Good Character Requirement in New Zealand Immigration

In specific instances, New Zealand immigration authorities hold the discretion to exempt individuals from the good character requirement based on their unique circumstances. When evaluating whether to grant an exemption, several factors are carefully considered:

  • Severity of the offense: The gravity of the offense committed by the applicant plays a crucial role in the decision-making process. Minor offenses are more likely to receive an exemption, while serious offenses may present greater challenges in obtaining the necessary NZeTA or visa.
  • Frequency of offenses: The number of offenses committed by the applicant is taken into account. A single offense may be viewed differently than a pattern of repeated offenses, with a greater emphasis placed on rehabilitation and demonstrated behavioral changes for individuals with multiple offenses.
  • Time elapsed since the criminal activity: The time passed since the occurrence of the criminal activity is an important consideration. Generally, a longer period since the offense occurred is viewed more favorably, as it allows for potential rehabilitation and indicates a positive shift in behavior.
  • Presence of legally resident family in New Zealand: If the applicant has immediate family members who are legally residing in New Zealand, this factor may be taken into consideration during the assessment for exemption. The presence of family members can serve as a support system and may influence the decision to grant the exemption from the good character requirement.

If immigration authorities decide to exempt an individual from the good character requirement, foreign nationals with less serious character issues may still be granted the relevant NZeTA or visa type. This allows them to travel to or reside in New Zealand, even though they may have had previous character-related issues.

It is important to note that the decision to grant an exemption from the good character requirement is made on a case-by-case basis, considering the specific circumstances and supporting evidence provided by the applicant.

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For short stays, vacations, or professional visitor activities, New Zealand now has a new entrance requirement known as the eTA New Zealand Visa. All non-citizens must possess a current visa or digital travel authorization to enter New Zealand. Apply For NZ eTA with the Online New Zealand Visa Application.

Applying for NZeTA with a Criminal Record: Guidelines and Considerations

When individuals with a criminal record apply for the NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority), it is important to adhere to the standard application procedure like any other applicant. However, there are certain guidelines and considerations to keep in mind:

  • Honesty in the Application: It is crucial to provide truthful and accurate information regarding any criminal convictions when completing the NZeTA application form. Dishonest or misleading statements can have serious consequences and may result in the denial of the NZeTA.
  • Potential Additional Documentation: Immigration authorities may reach out to applicants with a criminal record for further documentation or clarification to assess their eligibility based on the good character requirements. It is important to be prepared to provide any necessary documents or explanations to address these concerns.
  • Applying in Advance: Given the potential for additional scrutiny and the need for extra documentation, individuals with a criminal record are advised to apply for the NZeTA well ahead of their intended travel dates. While most NZeTA requests are processed within one working day, allowing extra time ensures that any additional documentation or clarification can be provided, if requested by immigration authorities.
  • Case-by-Case Assessment: Each NZeTA application is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the specific circumstances of the individual. It is important to understand that decisions regarding the NZeTA are based on the individual's unique situation and supporting documentation.
  • Seeking Professional Advice: Individuals with a criminal record may consider seeking professional advice or consulting with New Zealand immigration authorities to obtain further guidance and support throughout the application process.

By adhering to the standard NZeTA application process, providing truthful information, and being prepared to support their application with necessary documentation, individuals with a criminal record can still apply for and potentially obtain the NZeTA.

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So you're arranging an excursion to New Zealand or Aotearoa aka Land of Long White Cloud. Learn about Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to New Zealand


Ensure that you have checked the eligibility for your New Zealand eTA. If you are from a Visa Waiver country then you can apply for an eTA regardless of the mode of travel (Air / Cruise). United States citizens, European citizens, Hong Kong citizens, and United Kingdom citizens can apply online for New Zealand eTA. United Kingdom residents can stay on New Zealand eTA for 6 months while others for 90 days.

Please apply for a New Zealand eTA 72 hours in advance of your flight.